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March 2018 Archives

Law Students Help Puerto Rico Hurricane Victims

Going to hurricane-torn Puerto Rico was not exactly a study-abroad program.

But for Natalie Trigo Reyes and 29 classmates from Harvard Law School, it was a lesson for life. The law school sent them to Puerto Rico to help victims of Hurricane Maria, which leveled the U.S. territory last year.

"It looked as if the island had been hit by a nuclear bomb," said Trigo Reyes.

As a newly minted lawyer facing your first real interview for a job as a lawyer, being prepared is critical. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, getting prepared can be an anxiety inducing whirlwind of scouring the internet for information and talking to yourself in the mirror.

Since the most common place to start when preparing for anything is with the man in the mirror, below, you can find a collection of blog posts to help you prepare for your interview the right way.

Lawyer Faces Meth Lab Charges

It's hard to witness a train wreck, but not too hard to see it coming.

In a way, that's what happened to Portland attorney Erik John Graeff. He was moving down the track in his law practice, when the wheels started to come off.

Maybe it started when he allegedly shoved a client against a wall last year. It could have been the suspicious shooting incident a few months ago. But it all came crashing down this week when he was charged with operating a meth lab in his basement.

For a dozen Harvard Law students this Spring semester, Professor Laurence Tribe is teaching a seminar devoted to what a Trump impeachment would actually look like. Keeping with his trendy Twitter persona, Professor Tribe titled the course: "Constitutional Law 3.0: The Trump Trajectory."

Though it's relatively early still in the Trump presidency, undoubtedly, it has been a rather tumultuous start that has confused and confounded many pundits, and even White House staffers. The Harvard Law School seminar is designed to discuss and explore what the Trump presidency means for constitutional law, as well as what "#impeachment" or removal would mean, and how the constitution constrains President Trump's actions. In order to take the course, students were required to submit a resume as well as a short statement of interest.

Former NY Lawyer Finds Homes for Stray Puerto Rico Pups

Tania Isenstein had reached the dog days of her career, and she was dog-tired of it.

So the veteran lawyer left the dog-eat-dog world to search for that elusive day that every dog is supposed to have. "Dog gone it," she said to herself. "I'm going to make a run for it."

She took over a doggy day care business, and found her true collie, er, calling. Seriously, Isenstein is all about dogs these days -- about 200,000 of them.

It's plain to see why Seth Rich's family was bothered by the media's coverage of Seth's unsolved murder. Not only have his parents filed a lawsuit against various media companies and personalities, but so has his brother, Aaron Rich.

Sadly, without evidence or support, Rich's murder was used as a political prop by various media outlets. It was claimed that Seth was murdered as a result of leaking the DNC's emails to WikiLeaks. Basically, instead of Russian hackers, journalists and news personalities were putting the hacked emails on Seth and Aaron's shoulders, even after the alleged evidence was retracted by Fox News for failing to be subjected to a "high degree of editorial scrutiny."

Think Twice Before Writing Your Letter of Rec for Law School

Carpenters have a rule of thumb before sawing a piece of wood: "Measure twice; cut once."

It works for many ventures, including the adventure of law school. For aspiring law students seeking letters of recommendation, it starts with thinking twice. Here are a couple of tips:

First, choose wisely when it comes to selecting professors to write your letters. Second, never draft the letter for them.

Bar Pass Rates Up Overall, but Not Everywhere

Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel for law school graduates, as a new report shows the first-time bar pass rate inched up three percent nationwide last year.

The American Bar Association released the report, which shows bar pass rates by law school, and explained that is designed to help students decide "whether and where to attend law school."

Overall, it is a bright spot in the law school landscape with the best schools continuing to produce the best bar pass rates. For students at some schools, however, that light at the end of the tunnel may be a train.

In what appears to be a long-shot motion, Bill Cosby's attorneys filed a request for the trial judge to recuse himself due to his wife's views and work supporting survivors of sexual assault. And, as one might expect, reports seem to indicate that this won't go over well.

While this generally is not cause for recusal, Cosby's legal team is hoping to take this issue nuclear. They have requested that the issue be certified for immediate appeal if the recusal motion is denied. The prosecution believes this is simply another delay tactic.

It's a sad day in Savannah, Georgia. Law students and faculty at Savannah Law School were recently informed that their school will be shutting down.

Although this sad news blindsided the students and faculty, clearly the school's closing has been under consideration for some time as the news also came alongside notice that the school's building had been sold. Fortunately for the current graduating the class, the closure won't occur until the end of the semester.

While most law school application deadlines have come and gone by the time March rolls around, deadlines don't always matter. In fact, a quick web search will turn up countless tales of non-waitlisted law students being admitted even as late as July or August.

However, there is definitely a catch when it comes to applying late (which is generally considered any time after January). If you don't have some sort of wow factor that the school actually needs, or some alternative way in, you might just be wasting your time. Additionally, the conventional wisdom of applying early being better than applying late is absolutely true; schools just have more open seats in the fall than in the spring, where usually they are sorting out acceptances and the waitlist.

For every generation of lawyers, there's always a few people who just seem to embrace the times we live in and serve as the models of normalcy; Kirk Reams is not one of those persons. Reams is out there pushing the boundaries and standing up for what he believes in, like fringe employment benefits.

Although he's a licensed attorney, he was serving as a court clerk in the state of Florida, when he may have played a little too fast and too loose with the rules. Reams was suspended after it was discovered that he allowed his ex-girlfriend to have exclusive use of an unused county laptop computer for about a year. And the icing on cake: Reams' ex also told law enforcement that Reams snuck her into the judge's chambers in order to take nude photos and have sex in the chambers.

In what is clearly an attempt to garner media buzz and increase brand recognition, Lawyer.com has decided to enlist the help of an "intriguing" celebrity spokesperson: Lindsay Lohan.

Lawyer.com brought on Lohan for an exclusive 12 month partnership (endorsement) deal, where the celeb will also serve as a marketing and brand adviser. And while the deal is sure to be successful at attracting the eyes of the public, countless lawyers are all asking themselves the same few rhetorical questions:

Former Nashville Judge Accused of Stealing Drug-Court Money

If this article starts to sound like another corrupt judge story, that's because it is.

It is actually the second act in the tale of ex-Judge Cason "Casey" Moore, who was indicted last year on obstruction of justice charges after he allegedly traded his judicial favors for sexual ones. Now he has been charged with stealing drug court money to pay for sex (because judicial favors weren't enough?).

Seriously, these are all allegations. But really seriously, when are the stories about bad judges going to go away?

Law School Rankings Upset in U.S. News Report

Some universities will count 2018 as the year to remember, while others will want to forget it.

In collegiate basketball's "March Madness," it was the year of stunning upsets with top teams going down early. In law school rankings, it was also an early exit for one high-level university.

Pepperdine University School of Law was ranked No. 59 -- just shy of the top tier -- by U.S. News & World Report. But then this happened:

It is not every day that an employer can settle a class action employment lawsuit by putting a group of massage therapists on staff, but that's just how Harvard gets things done.

However, before you start thinking that demanding massage therapists will get your lawsuit settled, it should be noted that this class action was filed on behalf of a group of individuals that worked at Harvard, but were improperly classified as independent contractors rather than employees under state law. In addition to being reclassified as employees, the class members will receive up to $30K in back pay for unpaid benefits, as well as be considered part of the university employee union.

Best Law Schools for Landing a BigLaw Job

Comparatively speaking, the 'best law school for landing a BigLaw-job' is in the eye of the beholder.

If you are looking for a BigLaw job based on the best paycheck, that's one thing. If transactional or litigation experience is your goal, that's another. Maybe advancement opportunity, specialization, or work-life balance is your priority.

In any case, the "best" law schools typically provide students with tickets to the "best" law firms. With that in mind, behold the following law schools:

For lawyers, especially small firm lawyers, going viral can be a really big deal and a boon for business. Unfortunately, for the lucky few, going viral will only happen either when they let it go, or embrace the fact that internet people like lawyer dog memes more than lawyers.

Take for example Jonathan Triplett, the Kirkland and Ellis attorney, who is now experiencing that viral fame after hiking up his dress and pushing a police van out of a slippery and snowy situation in Boston, while dressed up as Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen. Triplett was just having fun when he decided to show up to the bar dressed as Elsa on the snowy night. But when he offered to help push the police van, other bar patrons caught the comically apropos scene on video, and made Triplett web-famous.Reportedly, the cold never bothered Triplett anyway.

In what may come as a shocking revelation to all those who believe that everyone in Congress is filthy rich (with an emphasis on the filthy), over 10 percent still carry student loan debt.

Notably though, it's not all their debt. For many members, the loans belong to a child, and show up for them due to co-signing. However, there are definitely a few who actually still owe debt from their own educations. After all, lawmakers often attend law school, which is among the most expensive educations one can buy. Also, the numbers have changed much since 2015, when it was revealed that multimillionaire Representative Joe Kennedy III (of Kennedy family notoriety) still owed over $40K in student loan debt.

The Scoop on 2019 U.S. News Law School Rankings

A consultant scooped the annual law school rankings by U.S. News and World Report, but that's no surprise.

The Spivey Consulting Group has been right about the rankings before. After all, it's just an early release of the same rankings and the usual suspects round out the top spots.

But it is surprising to see some law schools charging up the charts and others going down hard. Among other hard-chargers, U.C. Berkeley has cracked the top 10.

Top Business Skills You Learn in Law School

A common knock on law school is that it doesn't prepare students for the law business.

And it's generally true, especially if you don't take any business classes or practical clinics. But there is something to be learned in every class that can help the business-minded student.

It's about turning that legal training into business skills. After all, as every successful lawyer knows, the law is a business.

Science, technology, engineering, and math majors interested in law school are few and far between. This is partly due to a booming job market with lucrative salaries for these grads, which makes law school that much less attractive.

For some STEM grads, the idea of going into patent law can be rather attractive, and can be extraordinarily lucrative. For others, it may be that they missed their calling completely, or maybe they're looking to change the legal tech landscape. Regardless, it is rather clear from the law school admissions criteria that STEM grads may be at a disadvantage, on paper.

Below are a few tips on making your science background pay off when applying to law schools.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, while addressing a group of law students at the 2018 Federalist Society's National Student Symposium, recently explained his belief that we all need to be less cynical and negative about our country. The statement should be taken with every grain from an entire salt mine as the Justice sits in the highest of ivory towers.

However, there is a fine line between being critical and being cynical. Unfortunately for law students and lawyers, it's pretty simple to cross that line, and not just when studying/practicing, but also in daily life. After all, law school pretty much teaches lawyers how to be cynical and has helped to destroy many relationships. However, there's still hope for (some) students and lawyers, and even (some of) the most staunch cynics. Below you can find three tips on how to be a little less cynical.

Students of Failed Law School Can Get Loans Discharged

For lucky and unlucky students of the defunct Charlotte School of Law, the government giveth and it taketh away.

Under a new program, former Charlotte students may have their federal student loans forgiven if they were enrolled after Dec. 30, 2016. That was about two weeks after the education department took away federal student loans from the school.

The "closed-school discharge" is good news for about 300 lucky students who will not have to pay back those loans. For the rest who left the school burdened with debt, not so much.

Almost every lawyer has been down the rabbit hole of researching free legal research tools. And almost every one of those lawyers comes to the same conclusion: free legal research tools are often lacking in several ways (except, ironically, in cost).

Whether it's questionable accuracy, abysmal formatting, or the annoyance of having to scour multiple free sources, there's always something when it comes to free research sources. In the end, even bothering with free research sources can just be a waste of time, and hence a waste of resources (and ironically, a waste of money).

Law Schools Add Virtual Reality Experience

Not so long ago, lawyers started 'appearing' in court wearing pajamas.

That's when judges first allowed appearances by phone. It has been a cost-saving innovation with limitations, of course, because you can only hear but not see what's going on in the courtroom.

But that was yesterday. Tomorrow, attorneys may put on a pair of virtual reality glasses and see everything as if they were really there -- and still wear pajamas.

Attorney discipline is not usually creative. For the most part, it's the same old stuff over and over again: suspensions, reprimands, wrist slaps, fines, and disbarments.

However, for one Wisconsin lawyer, his criminal punishment was actually a mitigating factor for his attorney discipline. But that's likely due to the fact that part of his sentence for his criminal conviction involves telling every client he works for the following:

Prosecutor in Trouble for Lavish Spending

Dan Johnson, a South Carolina prosecutor, is the kind of boss that almost everybody loves.

He drops $6,000 on a Christmas party and $2,000 on a Super Bowl bash. He spends thousands on flowers and plants for staffers, including Valentine's Day roses for the ladies at the office.

Of course, Johnson is using taxpayer money and that doesn't sit well with everybody else. But the prosecutor is in real trouble because a newspaper just busted open the bank records, and it looks like this public employee is living over his pay grade.

The Law School Admissions Council is in some serious hot water with the law right now as a federal judge in California just held the organization in contempt. Shockingly, the contempt order came as a result of LSAC's failure to abide by a consent decree that implemented major changes to the testing accommodations process for disabled test takers.

Upon review of the matter, on motion by the DFEH, the court found that the LSAC, and its appointed monitor, were in violation of the consent decree setting forth particular requirements. And if you doubt that it was bad, the contempt order explained that blind and other disabled test takers were showing up to take the test without any accommodations being provided, despite accommodations being requested. Over a two year period between 2015 and 2017, only eight accommodation request appeals were processed, which, given the number of requests, was indicative of a policy that discouraged appeals.

Law Student Went to Class Through a Robot

Tess was a robot in law school.

No, not like Siri or Alexa. And not like those students who are more machine than human.

Tess Messiha, confined to bed rest during her pregnancy, attended UC Irvine School of Law through a robot. This is not the wave of the future; it is already here.

This Student Is Surviving Law School and the 'Survivor' Show

What is it about 'Survivor' that attracts law students?

Is it the dog-eat-dog drama that mirrors their law school experience? Is it the chance to run wild in a highly competitive environment where you can fail and still become a celebrity?

For Bradley Kleihege, the second law student to score a spot on the show, there's a more practical reason. He needs the prize money to pay off his student loans.

When it comes to judicial campaigns and suing judges, there's going to be some gray areas. One lawyer, and political hopeful, is learning the hard way that judges will almost always protect their own (Facebook pages).

The decree that a judge's campaign's Facebook page is not a public record subject to a public records request came as a result of litigation over horse slaughtering turned document vendetta. The lawyer that represented a slaughterhouse that was sued for using a facility to slaughter horses believed that the judge ruled based on political, and social media, pressures rather than the case's merits. To prove that point, the lawyer sought public records about the judge's process of review as well as records of his personal Facebook page used for his judicial campaigning.

Get out your tiny violin because this one's a doozy.

The former government, turned BigLaw, attorney that made headlines for trying to sell DOJ complaints to the companies being investigated, sought the mercy of the court in a sentencing memorandum filed last week.

The memorandum describes the situation as being like a "b-grade action movie," but given the context, it actually seems to be one of those dark comedies that makes you feel uncomfortable every time you laugh. Generally, he is blaming job stress for driving him to crime, and the memorandum lays it on rather thick. At one point in the memo, while discussing his relationship with his wife and her family to bolster his good character, his attorneys explain that he is known amid extended family as "the Jew who saved Christmas."

Dissolved Firm Can't Claw Back Fees From Exiting Partners

The California Supreme Court said dissolving law firms cannot claw back fees on unfinished hourly matters that departing partners take to new firms.

It was a closely-watched case, especially since it involved the bankruptcy of a BigLaw firm and the administrator's claims against more than a dozen other law firms for profits in ongoing cases. The decision may help settle similar disputes between law firms and exiting partners.

But it was also a lesson for the bankruptcy administrator who could not get several law firms to settle in the case. As Inspector Callahan said, "Man's got to know his limitations."

Perhaps the best way to celebrate any holiday is to spend some time learning about why the holiday is celebrated at all. And while you may not get any time off from work to knock back a few cold ones in honor of International Women's Day, you can spend a few minutes reading about some of the recent milestones reached and others within reach when it comes to gender equality.

Then, if you are interested in social media marketing and engagement, sharing what you read with your law firm's, or your own, social media audience is a great idea. While it's unlikely that a potential client will see that post, click your name, then call and hire you right away, if you're going to be on social, then engaging is critical. It's part of building that brand so that when that person needs an attorney, they remember your firm.

While it may seem insincere or exploitative to use a holiday to market, everything a business does on social media, or publicly, is exploitative and part of their marketing.

The Award for 'Dumbest Thing a Lawyer Can Say in Court' Goes to ...

After the Academy Awards, there is an awards show for lawyers who say really stupid things.

Alright, it's not exactly a "show." But lawyers are on stage in the courtroom, and sometimes they say things that are almost entertaining for their stupidity.

So here's to the front-runners for the "Dumbest Thing a Lawyer Can Say in Court." There is no host -- just judges, juries, and the court of public opinion.

For those law students that will be taking an actual vacation for Spring Break, you might want to just leave the books at home. After all, can you really relax if you have to lug around a hundred pounds of law school reading?

While law textbooks make excellent drink trays on the beach (minus the whole binding getting filled with sand problem), your torts book will probably just end up being a constant reminder of the zone of danger you are entering every morning that you order a pile of pina coladas for breakfast?

But if you're not going anywhere, getting a head start on your outlines for finals during spring break will help you relax a little bit more than your well-traveled peers when exam time rolls around. Below are a few tips on how to get started on your exam outlines.

Judge Accused of Malicious Prosecution in Lawsuit

Pop quiz: What happens if you fail to notify people that you have subpoenaed their bank records?

Pop answer: You get indicted for identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud. Wait, what?

Oh yeah, that's how it works in a little place called the Appalachia Judicial Circuit. That's why people are calling the local chief judge "Boss Hogg," the unethical commissioner of Hazzard County.

While prospective law students are likely to watch Buzzfeed's recent Law School Horror Stories video, as most lawyers will tell you, those stories are significantly lacking in horror. Frankly, the tales told are just not that bad (excepting the Texas moot court discriminatory comment). No one was brought up to the front of class, nicknamed "fruit salad" by their prof, and told to stand up and spin around in circles because they're "all mixed up." Every lawyer has some law school story of suffering, and if you find the Buzzfeed video scary, you might want to think twice about law school.

As a 1L, a professor for six consecutive class meetings cold called on yours truly relentlessly. But even when the answers provided were correct, the professor would point out that there was another issue, significant fact, or point. Other students sympathized. Some laughed. Simply put, being embarrassed or under/unprepared does not constitute a horror -- that's just part of the law school process.

Having your laptop crash mid-final exam, losing a scholarship and not being able to qualify for financial aid, having your pen explode all over your bluebook, sitting behind someone who cannot control their bodily functions during the bar exam, not landing a job or passing the bar post graduation: these are the law school horror stories that truly traumatize.

Controversy as Law School Cuts Off Students Below 142 LSAT

Bob Orr, formerly a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, has a problem with the American Bar Association.

The ABA put pressure on his old law school at North Carolina Central University over admission standards, compelling NCCU to cut off applicants who score less than 142 on the LSAT.

"To imply the school is somehow admitting a lesser-talented group and the administration is somehow responsible defies comprehension and is insulting in so many ways," Orr complained.

But how do you really feel, your honor? Oh, wait. He's not the only one complaining...